Welcome to Plan-Perform-Score! These Insight Bites focus on ideas, thoughts, and tools to alter perspective and improve performance.
Problem Solving: Don't Add Unnecessay Complexity
Problem solving is an essential part of life. We continually face new challenges that require concerted effort to solve. Taking some time to ponder the situation and our real objective can sometimes lead to dramatically different solutions.
Here are a few of my favorite stories that demonstrate "over-complexing" the situation.
When NASA first started launching astronauts they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not function in zero gravity. To combat this problem, NASA sprung into action. Scientists spent a decade and $12 BILLION developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, on almost any surface including glass and functioned at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 centigrade. This was quite an impressive achievement. Meanwhile the Russians, dealing with the similar issue, simply used a PENCIL.
NASA assumed the solution had to be a vastly improved ball point pen and missed the point with an easier solution.
Production Line Shipment Issue
A toothpaste factory had a problem. Sometimes they shipped empty boxes without the tube inside. This was not a pleasant experience for their customers. This factory situation involved the production line set up and the myriad of reasons why the synchronization of the manufacturing process was less than optimal.
The CEO leaped into action. The company hired an external engineering company to solve the problem. The project took six months and cost $8 million. At the end they had a fantastic solution that was on budget and on time. Their solution used high-precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should. The line would stop and someone had to walk over and yank the defective box out of it, and press another button to restart the line.
After a few months, the pleased CEO noted that no empty boxes were being shipped and customers were no longer complaining. He thought, here was a true success story no matter what the cost.
The next month, the CEO noted that the production reporting process was indicating that NO boxes were violating the high sensitivity scales when normal operations would expect a dozen a day. Puzzled, the CEO made a trip to the factory floor to investigate. When he neared the place in the production line with the high sensitive scales, the CEO noted a small desk fan sitting next to the sophisticated scales and asked what was going on. A nearby worker said one of the guys put the fan there because he got tired of walking over every time the bell rang. Ouch! Here was a $20 and 1 hour solution compared to the enacted $8 million six-month approach.
Look Before You Leap Into Problem Solving
Our perceptions and assumptions help frame our decision making. So before you prematurely launch into "doing," take some time to consider:
What predispositions of mine can get me in trouble?We are all victims of our prior experiences and sometimes they taint us. Don't be too quick to hone in on a solution approach.
If you had limited resources, how would you approach the problem? Having too much time, money & available resources can also lead to "straight jacket" perception. Very often, our most creative solutions come when resource constraints impact our thinking.
Is there someone closer to the problem who might have a solution? Don't assume the only source of wisdom is higher in or outside the organization. Talk to those team members who are most in tune with the situation. They often have insight you will completely miss.
What might be some unintended consequences of my actions? Unintended consequences are a fact of life. Try to anticipate them before or very early in your problem solving process.
What exercises can I do to stimulate my thinking?One of my favorite i-pad apps is "Creative Whack Pack by Roger Von Oech." It's a wonderful resource of 84 thought provoking cards to alter your thought process. If you don't already have this tool, get it! It will inspire you.
I hope these few suggestions remind you that in this age of complexity, we occasionally find a relatively simple solution. Don't miss the opportunity to capture it.
Quote & Note
"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly."-Buckminster Fuller
What miracles lie dormant within you? Remember, you are unique and so is your potential. Have faith and take flight into your evolving future.
Internal consistency is valued more highly than efficient service.
Beware: your systems and procedures can sometimes be counter productive to customer service.
A few years ago a friend of mine was traveling to South America. When he went to check in, his bag was 3 pounds over the limit. So the airline attendant told him he faced a substantial additional fee. My friend pleaded his case since his weight overage was so slight. The airline rep stood her ground and said she had to enforce the penalty. My creative friend, who always carried a smaller bag inside his larger suitcase, simply removed the smaller bag and put five pounds of stuff in it to avoid the fine. As a result, the airline had two bags taking up more space and a line full of passengers rethinking their future choice of air carriers.
Remember your systems should support customer service, not detract from it.
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